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SACW | 02 March 2004

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 02 March, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [1] Bangladesh: - Intellectuals for erasing communal forces - Humayun Azad: Time to rein in ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2004
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 02 March, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      [1] Bangladesh:
      - Intellectuals for erasing communal forces
      - Humayun Azad: Time to rein in ... (Naeem Mohaiemen)
      [2] UK- India: "In Bad Faith: British Charity and
      Hindu Extremism" + news report
      [3] Pakistan: An interview with A H Nayyar (Anuradha M Chenoy)
      [4] India: One nation's many pasts (Romila Thapar)
      [5] Indian Politics at the Crossroads: Toward Elections 2004 (Aijaz Ahmad)



      The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
      March 02, 2004

      Intellectuals for erasing communal forces
      Dhaka turns into protest ground on Azad attack
      Staff Correspondent

      Protesting the attack on Prof. Humayun Azad,
      writers, litterateurs, teachers, intellectuals
      and professionals yesterday urged the progressive
      political parties to forge an alliance to topple
      the government and get rid of fundamentalist and
      communal cliques in society.

      At a protest rally co-organised by South Asian
      People's Union against Fundamentalism and
      Communalism and Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul
      Committee, they asked all progressive political
      parties who nurture true spirit of the Liberation
      War to implement a countrywide hartal called for
      March 6.

      Instead of registering only verbal protests, the
      non-communal, progressive and secular political
      parties should take effective measures to stand
      up to fascist, communal and fundamentalist forces.

      They accused the government of harbouring 'evil
      forces' and urged the people to take to the
      street to force the BNP-led coalition government
      out of office.

      Presiding over the rally at Dhanmondi Women's
      Voluntary Association Auditorium in Dhaka,
      eminent poet Shamsur Rahman said, "We can no
      longer survive clinging on to books and pens. We
      have to think of some new things."

      He said the intellectual community should come
      forward to helping people force their way out of
      such a unfortunate state and backwardness.

      Professor Kabir Chowdhury said, "This government
      has the typical characteristics of a fascist
      government. It should be unseated. We can no
      longer wait for the political parties to unite.
      All progressive people with good sense must unite

      Professor Mustafa Nur-ul-Islam also urged the
      political parties to unite. "Please forget your
      differences and decide what should be done. Trust
      us, we are with you."

      "The country has been taken over by barbarians
      and seized by rajakars," writer and playwright
      Syed Shamsul Haq noted. He alleged that Khaleda
      Zia (BNP chief) and Motiur Rahman Nizami
      (Jamaat-e-Islami chief) instigated the attack on
      Prof Azad and urged the teacher community to
      observe the general strike and abstain from work
      like the teachers of Dhaka University.

      Prof Borhanuddin Khan Jahangir, drawing attention
      to the attack on Prof Azad and other writers and
      journalists, said, "Armed people have waged a war
      against the unarmed people. (And) Khaleda-Nizami
      clique are aiding and abetting the armed people."

      He urged the people to come out on the streets and seize the Secretariat.

      Artist Prof Rafiqun Nabi, Prof Mir Mobassher Ali,
      former DU vice-chancellor Prof Azad Chowdhury,
      Prof Ajay Roy, Prof ASM Arefin Siddiqui, writer
      Shahriar Kabir, Prof Muntasir Mamun, Shyamoli
      Nasrin Chowdhury and Dr Kazi Faruk Ahmed also
      spoke at the rally.

      Our Dhaka University (DU) correspondent reports:
      The DU campus continued to boil with rage
      yesterday over Friday's grisly attack on Dr
      Humayun Azad.

      Throughout the day, the campus roared with
      rallies and protest demonstrations where
      thousands of students, teachers, political
      leaders and activists reiterated their demand for
      the resignation of Home Minister Altaf Hossain

      Demonstrators also burnt an effigy of the home
      minister for failing to prevent the attack on the
      eminent writer and urged the government to ensure
      the best possible treatment for Azad and the
      security of his family.

      The DU Teachers' Association (Duta) observed a token sit-in on the campus.

      Leaders of political parties and student
      organisations, cultural and human-rights
      activists, members of the civil society and
      professional bodies gathered at a big rally at
      the Central Shaheed Minar organised by Sammilita
      Sangskritik Jote.

      "We must oust this communal and fundamentalist
      government that killed the country's
      intellectuals in 1971 and has now attacked Dr
      Azad," Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul
      Jalil told the rally.

      Monzurul Ahsan Khan, Rashed Khan Menon, Hasanul
      Haque Inu, Asaduzzaman Noor, Poet Syed Shamsul
      Haque, Kazi Zafar Ahmed, Abed Khan, Duta
      President Arefin Siddique, Kamal Lohani, Ramendu
      Majumder, Mamunur Rashid and Ayesha Khanam also
      addressed the rally.

      Language veteran Abdul Matin, Prof Serajul Islam
      Chowdhury, Prof Anu Muhammad, Prof Akmal Hossain,
      poet Samudra Gupta, film producer Shahin Akhtar,
      dramatist Raihan Chowdhury and writers Nurunnabi,
      Moshiul Alam and Benzin Khan addressed another
      protest rally in front of the National Museum and
      demanded immediate arrest of and punishment to
      the real culprits.

      Students under the banner of 'Muktachinta Rakkha
      O Aganatantrik Shokti Protirodh Humayan Azad
      Mancha' will observe a token sit-in today at the
      foot of the Aparajeyo Bangla.

      Demanding arrest of the real culprits, the
      AL-backed Bangladesh Chhatra League during a
      press conference at the DU Journalists'
      Association yesterday threatened an indefinite
      strike at all educational institutions across the
      country if the government did not release within
      48 hours BCL leader Abbas arrested in connection
      with the attack on Dr Azad.

      JSD (Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal)-backed BCL and
      Bangladesh Chhatra Moitri have called a strike at
      all educational institutions on March 3. They
      will also stage countrywide demonstrations today.

      Left-leaning 11-party alliance, Bangladesh
      Workers Party and the JSD also held separate
      protest rallies in the city.

      o o o

      The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
      March 02, 2004


      Humayun Azad: Time to rein in ...
      Naeem Mohaiemen

      Humayun Azad lies in a coma at CMH. Rumours fly
      about his situation. Dhaka University has
      exploded with rage, and the rest of the city
      looks ready to boil over. The Home Minister has
      even said: "We are engaging all-out efforts to
      find out whether he was attacked for personal
      enmity or there were other schemes."

      One can assume who is ultimately responsible for
      this grisly incident. Azad's assassins were
      actively or passively created by the virulent
      hatred being promoted by Jamaat, Islami Oikkyo
      Jote and other Islamist parties. On December 12,
      members of Khatme Nabuwwot addressed a gigantic
      demonstration of anti-Ahmadiyya fundamentalists
      at Baitul Mukarram Mosque. At that gathering,
      fiery speakers demanded the arrest and trial of
      Professor Azad for his novel "Pak Sar Zamin Sad
      Bad". A month later, on January 25, Jamaat MP
      Delwar Hossain Sayeedi demanded introduction of a
      Blasphemy Act in parliament to block the
      publication of such books.

      A glance at Humayun Azad's recent book "Amra Ki
      Ey Bangladesh Cheyechilam? (Is This The
      Bangladesh We Wanted?)" reveals clear clues about
      the author's enemies.

      Discussing the insertion of Islam as State
      Religion into our constitution, Azad wrote:

      "[Constitution says] 'Absolute trust and faith in
      the Almighty Allah shall be the basis of all
      state actions.' This is a clever trick to deceive
      the common, God-fearing man. In this country,
      Muslims have always followed their faith, and
      always will-- no one is stopping them. But using
      religion as a tool is trickery, a ploy to give
      the people nothing. They will promise the people
      heaven, but will not give them economic
      self-sufficiency ... all our government functions
      have become competitions of religious sermons. If
      using religion [in government] was useful,
      Bangladesh should have become the world's most
      holy and developed nation. Instead, it has become
      the world's most corrupt nation. The corruption
      of religious politicians has destroyed the

      Turning his attention to the Jamaat and its
      allies, Humayun blasted those who opposed
      Bangladesh's liberation and feel nostalgia for
      "united Pakistan":

      "Our fathers committed a deadly mistake, a
      crime-- they made Bengal Pakistan. We did not
      want to stay sons of slaves, so we created
      Bangladesh. Now, let us imagine Bangladesh never
      became independent, we were still East Pakistan.
      What would we see around us? We would see the
      flag with moon and stars, we would hear 'Pak Sar
      Zamin Sad Bad', the Ministers would all be
      Punjabis, the army would be filled with Pathan
      and Punjabi Generals. Those who roar around in
      Pajeros today -- would be standing on the
      roadside shaking in front of those same jeeps.
      The Adamjis, Dauds, Bawanis, and Kabuliwalas
      would run this country ..."

      From the late 1970s, the BNP has actively
      rehabilitated the Jamaat and other Islamic
      parties. The attack on Azad represents a
      continuum of a growing menace that has expressed
      itself through attacks on Shamsur Rahman, Udichi,
      Ramna Botomool, Ahmadiyyas, Hindus and now the
      push for a Blasphemy Law. Where will it strike

      Azad is not the first author to fall foul of
      religious extremists. In 1994, in a startlingly
      similar attack, a man plunged a knife into the
      neck of Egyptian Nobel winner Naguib Mahfouz. The
      assailant was quickly identified as a sympathizer
      of the militant Islamic group al-Gama'a al-Islam.
      Mahfouz had been a target of the religious
      fanatics since the 1959 publication of his novel
      "Awlad haratina (Children of Gebelawi )", in
      which key characters were modeled after
      historical religious figures. The attacker
      confessed before he was hanged that he had never
      read the book, but had been inspired by a
      sheikh's fatwa.

      Similar to today's Bangladesh, Egypt saw a rapid
      growth of religious parties, and an associated
      growth in violence in the 1990s. In 1992, the
      Gama'a al-Islamiyya launched violent attacks on
      the minority Coptic Christians. These attacks
      were linked with a campaign for Islamic rule in
      Egypt, resulting in pitched street battles with
      the police. Al-Gama'a soon upped the ante,
      assassinating secular intellectual Farag Foda and
      taking over the working class neighbourhood of
      Imbaba and declaring it an "Islamic Republic." In
      December 1992, 14,000 Egyptian troops stormed and
      occupied Imbaba, putting an end to the
      "Republic." Driven underground, Al-Gama'a
      redirected its attention towards high-profile
      terrorist attacks, massacring hundreds of foreign
      and local tourists between 1993 and 1997.

      The attack on Naguib Mahfouz was a watershed,
      turning the majority of public opinion against
      the extremists of al-Gama'a and Islamic
      Brotherhood. When the Interior Minister was
      assigned the task of rooting out Muslim
      militants, Mahfouz told him from his hospital
      bed, "You are leading a battle in defence of true
      Islam. This incident is an opportunity to ask God
      to make the police defeat terrorists and to plead
      for the country to be purified of this evil in
      defence of people, liberty and Islam."

      Gamal Ghitani, editor of Akhbar al-Adab, wrote,
      "This attack defames Islam and Arabs in a way
      that the worst of our enemies have not been able
      to inflict upon us." An Egyptian literary critic
      added, "When the assailant stuck the knife in the
      neck of our Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz, it
      wasn't just an attack on our country's most
      prominent literary personage, but an assault on
      Egypt itself."

      Most significantly, even religous leaders joined
      the outcry, with Grand Mufti Sheik Said Tantawi
      pronouncing, "The sharia forbids a Muslim from
      pointing a weapon at his fellow Muslim, not to
      mention using this weapon in killing."

      Faced with a decisive government crackdown, the
      militant groups slowly disintegrated. Today, an
      uneasy stability prevails in Egypt, but militant
      Islamic groups are no longer tolerated or
      supported by the government. Rather than
      silencing Naguib Mahfouz, the 1994 attack made
      him more determined. Suffering from nerve damage
      as a result of the attack, Mahfouz can no longer
      write. But each week he dictates his column to
      his friend Mohamed Salmawy. Since the incident,
      the government has also relaxed its unofficial
      ban on "Awlad haratina." The book has now been
      serialised in newspapers, broadcast on radio and
      published in its entirety. Even the authorities
      at al-Azhar mosque-university recommended its
      publication so that it could be read and debated
      by people.

      Can we hope for a similar positive result from
      this tragic incident? Will the Bangladeshi people
      finally rise up in outrage and demand
      accountability from both the BNP and the AL? It
      is time to rein in those who play politics in the
      name of religion. Time to remove the ban on
      Ahmadiyya books, and strike down the proposed
      Blasphemy Act.

      Additional Research: Shahed Amanullah
      Naeem Mohaiemen is Editor of Shobak.org



      In Bad Faith: British Charity and Hindu Extremism
      Published by Awaaz South Asia Watch Limited (London) 2004
      ISBN 0 9547174 0 6

      In the name of charity, British public is funding Hindutva extremism

      A report [...] launched on the second anniversary
      of the horrific Gujarat carnage in 2002 presents
      alarming new evidence that under the cloak of
      humanitarian charity, massive donations from the
      British public were sent to Fascist-inspired
      Hindu extremist groups involved or directly
      implicated in serious, large-scale violence or
      hatred in India.

      Prepared by Awaaz - South Asia Watch Ltd, a
      London-based secular network, the report In Bad
      Faith? British Charity and Hindu Extremism, says
      UK organisations have been raising funds in the
      name of charity for natural disasters like
      earthquakes, and giving them to extremist
      organisations that preach hatred against Muslims
      and Christians.

      The report [..] demonstrates that the UK-based
      Sewa International sent £2 million for the
      devastating earthquake in the Indian state of
      Gujarat in 2001, to its Indian counterpart Sewa
      Bharati, a front for the secretive, violent
      Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Money from the
      UK was given to RSS front organisations that are
      involved or implicated in serious violence or
      hate politics in India. Much of the money was
      spent on schools that promote hatred and

      "Gandhi's murderer was an RSS activist. Most
      British donors would be horrified if they knew
      the nature, history and ideas of the RSS.
      Individuals raised funds and donated in good
      faith to Sewa International's Gujarat earthquake
      appeals but would not have done so had they known
      that the organisation raising the money was
      closely linked to the Fascist-inspired and
      secretive Indian RSS", says Awaaz.

      Sewa International is not registered as a British
      charity, but is the fundraising arm of the
      registered charity Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS),
      the UK branch of the RSS. The report exposes the
      connections of the HSS, Sewa International and
      the Kalyan Ashram Trust (another registered
      charity) to violent and extremist groups in
      India. The RSS, its closely allied family of
      organisations and their followers have been
      involved in the persecution or killing of
      thousands of Muslims and Christians in India over
      the past fifteen years. They are known to have
      planned and executed anti-Muslim pogroms in the
      Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, in which 2,000
      people were killed and 200,000 displaced. An
      independent investigation headed by a former
      Chief Justice of India called the Gujarat
      violence a "genocide". Victims included British
      citizens. The RSS family considers religious
      minorities especially Muslims and Christians to
      be foreigners, aliens and polluters who have no
      right be treated as equal citizens of India.

      "Sewa International has tried to dupe
      politicians, donors and the general public. Its
      main purpose is to fund, expand and glorify
      hate-driven RSS organisations, several of which
      have been at the forefront of large scale
      violence, pogroms or hate campaigns in India. Its
      claim to be a non-sectarian, non-political,
      non-religious humanitarian charity is a sham,"
      said Awaaz spokesperson Suresh Grover.

      In the thoroughly documented report, Awaaz
      clearly establishes the strong ties between
      British charities and extremist organisations in
      India. It has called for the Charity Commissioner
      to withdraw the charity status of three British
      charities: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) UK, the
      Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) UK, and the Kalyan
      Ashram Trust. The Leicester-based Hindu
      Swayamsevak Sangh and Sewa International are
      currently being investigated by the UK Charity

      The full report is available at

      o o o

      The Hindustan Times
      March 1, 2004

      Sewa Int'l funded Hindu radicals in India: Lord Patel
      Nabanita Sircar
      London, March 1

      Lord Adam Patel has backed the Awaaz report
      published last week, that said that Sewa
      International, a UK registered charity was
      funding Hindu radicals in India.

      Lord Patel, who resigned as patron of the charity
      in 2002, said: "Sewa International has cheated me
      and cheated the residents of the UK. The
      organisation has been raising funds in the name
      of charity and giving them to extremist
      organisations that preach hatred against Muslims
      and Christians. The report demonstrates that Sewa
      International sent £2 million, raised in the wake
      of the devastating earthquake in Gujarat in 2001,
      to its Indian counterpart Sewa Bharati."

      "This organisation is a front to the RSS, which
      has been involved in large scale violence or hate
      politics in India."

      Labour Lord Patel told a Leicester paper that:
      "Thousands of Indians have died over the past
      fifteen years as a result of
      religiously-motivated violence. Much of the money
      sent by Sewa International was spent on schools
      that promote hatred and fanaticism."

      The report could be discussed in Parliament.
      Jeremy Corbyn, MP, and Vice Chairman of the
      All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Human
      Rights, said: "I am sure we will all be asking
      questions about this in the Lords and Commons. No
      British organisation should be allowed in the
      name of charity to support extremists who have
      perpetrated this terrible violence."

      Awaaz has maintained that Sewa International does
      not represent Hindus. A spokesman said: "Sewa
      International does not represent Hindu
      communities or Hinduism. They represent a
      political cult whose founders and early leaders
      were admirers of Mussolini and Hitler."



      The Times of India

      Past Masters
      [ THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004 12:00:17 AM ]
      As in India , school textbooks in history and
      other subjects are being rewritten in Pakistan
      too. A H Nayyar , professor of physics at the
      Quaid-I-Azam University and member of the
      Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI),
      Islamabad , has recently brought out a report,
      criticising the large-scale changes in school
      curricula in Pakistan . On a recent visit to
      Delhi , he spoke to Anuradha M Chenoy:

      You are a physicist. What made you write a report on textbooks in Pakistan ?

      It started with my friend Pervez Hoodbhoy, who
      found objectionable material in school textbooks
      and distortions in history books. He then took it
      to a World Bank-sponsored meeting in Pakistan .
      The officials there dismissed his claim and put
      him on the "exit-control" list. In 2002, we
      started the syste- matic screening of textbooks
      for all classes.

      What interpretation of history and culture is being pushed in the curricula?

      We have shown, with many examples, that these
      books contain material which incites hatred
      towards other countries and people. History has
      been falsified, parts of it have been omitted and
      other periods glorified to suit "Islamiat". For
      example, Pakistan wished, for a time, to be
      associated with Central Asia rather than South
      Asia . So, the focus is on the period from
      Mohammed bin Qasim onwards. There is little bit
      on Mohenjodaro, a bit on the history of Sind ,
      but then there is jump to Mohammed Ghaznavi, and
      the Sulta-nate period. As for the freedom
      movement, there is little bit on 1857 revolt and
      then a straight jump to the struggle for Pakistan
      . The mullahs are shown as supporting the
      struggle for Pakistan although they were against
      it. The inter- pretation is meant to suggest that
      Pakistan always existed as a state. There are
      clear gender biases and stereotypes in the texts.
      The concept of jehad is repeated in many of the
      texts, with quotes that exhort Muslims to take up
      jehad. These textbooks are used both in public
      and private schools. The madrassas of course have
      their own system. But Islamiat is compulsory in
      all schools. It is acknowledged that the Taliban
      and jehadi forces were an outcome of the

      Do the madrassas continue with the same education?

      Yes. The madrassas are very resistant to change
      in curricula and method of teaching. Muslim
      society is passing through a stage where the idea
      of jehad is coming from within and so they remain
      popular. The madrassas subscribe to a very
      dogmatic and literal interpretation of the
      religious texts. All knowledge is to be in
      consonance with Islamiat. No distinction is made
      here between the worldly and the spiritual. They
      ignore the more liberal interpretations (like the
      Nidwa). Since the madrassas create the clergy,
      their basic scope is restricted to religious
      training. There was a lot of support for jehad in
      Pakistani society before the clampdown by
      Musharraf. In the last days of the Taliban for
      instance, money was pouring into the Taliban
      embassy from all kinds of sources.

      How many madrassas are there? And do they remain popular?

      At the primary level, there are hundreds of
      thousands. For higher learning, there are about
      10,000 or so. There are separate madrassas for
      girls. Because the state is unable to provide
      education, almost 50 per cent of children can't
      go to school either due to poverty or the lack of
      schools. More girls than boys remain out of
      school. Where schools exist, there is a great
      urge among both boys and girls for education.

      How are the madrassas funded and who supports them?

      Traditionally, the madrassas relied on the
      community. The Dar-ul-Ulema created Muslim
      Bhikhshus, who collected donations and meals.
      Muslim society is supportive of this. The
      madrassas keep registers of their donations that
      range from small to very large amounts. Every
      graduate from here desires to open his own
      madrassa or mosque. The big jagirdars also
      support and fund these. Ear-lier, the jehadi
      groups kept boxes in the shops for donations,
      which were always at least half full. They were
      getting funds from all over the world. Now, due
      to US pressure, there are no more collection
      boxes. But while jehadis are on the run, some are
      still around. After the attacks on the president,
      the state has become more wary of them.

      What has the present government done to change this?

      The Musharraf regime has attempted to change the
      curricula of the madrassas and offered grants to
      those who adopt the new curricula. But the
      madrassas are not dependent on government grants
      and know how to sustain themselves. The
      government has started its own model madrassas.
      But this has only helped increase the number of

      How are the changes in the curricula impacting Pakistani society?

      This kind of education is injuring the minds of
      people, making them less tolerant, less
      questioning and less critical. It promotes a
      particular kind of nationalism and religious
      chauvinism, which glorifies and reinforces
      militarism in the minds of children. When young
      minds are taught myths and false history, they
      become less inquisitive, and truth becomes a

      What impact has your report made?

      The government has constituted a committee to
      look at the curricula, with two people from the
      SDPI, but I am not on it. The committee has begun
      to look at the curricula.



      The Hindustan Times
      March 2, 2004

      One nation's many pasts
      Romila Thapar

      As regards the Muslims being foreign to India,
      the first exposition of this notion is found in
      James Mill's History of British India, published
      in the early 19th century.

      He periodised Indian history into Hindu
      civilisation, Muslim civilisation and the British
      period and argued for the antagonism between the
      first two and maintained that the Muslims were
      aliens. His history became a hegemonic history.
      Colonial policy was directed towards emphasising
      the oppression of the Hindu by the Muslim in the
      past in order to prove that the Hindu was rescued
      by the coming of the British. Such history can
      hardly be regarded as indigenous when it was in
      effect derived from colonial readings of Indian

      None of this amounts to a paradigm shift in the
      writing of history. Colonial theories are being
      revived because they suit the political ideology
      of religious nationalism which had its genesis in
      such theories. Obviously, history has to be
      rewritten from time to time since it is not a
      frozen body of information. Like all knowledge it
      has to be continually updated through advances in
      data and methods of analyses. This process is
      part of a critical inquiry on which the
      historical method is founded. The assumption that
      such a method is not required in the
      reinterpretation of history is a premise that is
      disputed by those opposing the so-called new

      The scope of history as written by independent
      professional historians has widened enormously.
      It includes the study of changing forms of caste,
      gender studies, diverse economies of various
      periods, the role of technologies, processes of
      State formation, the social context of religious
      sects, the history of ideas, the impact of the
      environment and ecology on human activities and
      vice versa - in fact, the normal components of
      what today is regarded as appropriate to
      historical investigation. The much wider range of
      causal analyses resulting from the broadening of
      the scope of history also requires a discussion
      in greater depth of priorities in ascertaining
      causes. Over and above this, the historical
      context of ideas and historiography has become a
      prerequisite for historical research.

      There is yet another aspect that has to be
      brought into the discussion of the role of
      religious nationalism in the discipline of
      history. Nationalism focuses on the link between
      power and culture and seeks to use culture in its
      access to power. Culture becomes a euphemism for
      power. The redefinition of Indian culture as
      essentially Hindu and of the upper caste has also
      become the ideology of a section of the Hindu
      diaspora. It is a rich diaspora and as a wealthy
      patron it intervenes in the politics of the

      For such 'long-distance nationalism' as it has
      been called, the culture of the homeland becomes
      an abstract construction. There are fantasies
      about the past of the homeland, some of which are
      a response to confrontations with the culture of
      the host country. Migrants are frequently
      minorities in the host country which is a
      problematic status to come to terms with if they
      have been part of the majority in the home
      country. To the degree that the rewriting of
      history is a political act, history becomes the
      ground for contestation. The contest is over who
      does the reformulating of history and with what

      Those in the diaspora are also seeking a bonding
      and an identity. This is sought to be derived
      from religious nationalism, and therefore the
      Hindu past has to be viewed - consistently and
      uniformly - as a golden age, and no critique is
      allowed. There are virulent attacks on scholars
      who do not support religious nationalism. They
      are described as 'Communists' and an appeal is
      made to the ghost of Joe McCarthy to rescue
      Indian history! But scholarship has to be
      contested through scholarship and through
      political polemics. There is, therefore, a link
      between religious nationalism in the home country
      and its manifestation in the diaspora. At some
      point, therefore, politics in the host country
      will also have to take into account the politics
      of such groups - and this may well be part of the

      There now has to be an awareness of the need to
      monitor curriculum procedures and the quality of
      textbooks, with a constant effort to keep the
      discussion on these open and active. At the same
      time, the universe of discourse on Indian history
      and the human sciences, among academics both in
      India and outside, will have to be maintained
      through protecting the right to free expression.

      This will involve resisting attempts by various
      organisations in India and in the Hindu diaspora
      to silence divergent opinion, even when such
      opinion is threatened - as it has been - by
      physical assaults. Historical writing across the
      intellectual and academic spectrum has to be
      available to whoever wants to read it. There can
      be no concession to the claim that a history
      propagating religious nationalism is the only way
      to protect the religion and culture of Indian
      society. Protection lies in preventing the
      closing of the Indian mind.




      Magazine Section / The Hindu
      Feb 29, 2004

      Indian Politics at the Crossroads: Toward Elections 2004

      AIJAZ AHMAD reflects on a few events and issues
      of the past that are likely to set the tone for
      the forthcoming general elections. Exclusive
      extracts from the just released book.

      DRAFTED in the closing days of 2003, this article
      begins with some reflections on a terrifying
      interregnum between four state assembly
      elections, three of which the BJP has swept, and
      the Lok Sabha elections which the BJP-led central
      government of the National Democratic Alliance
      (NDA) is trying to hold as quickly as possible,
      perhaps in March-April 2004. The BJP's electoral
      victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and
      Chhattisgarh closely followed upon a similar
      sweep in Gujarat a year earlier, which itself
      followed the logic of the communal pogrom in that
      state in February/March 2002. Together, these
      events can be viewed as constituting a
      qualitatively new stage in the Hindutva offensive
      which began with the Ayodhya-driven Lok Sabha
      elections of 1989 and will likely set the tone
      not only for the forthcoming national elections
      but also for further Hindutva offensives in such
      key states as Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar
      Pradesh over the next year or two ...

      * * *

      ... Immediately after the polls, Vajpayee
      asserted vehemently that the issue of Hindutva
      was simply absent from the contests. In a sense
      he was right. It was the BJP's opponents - the
      so-called secular parties outside the Left - who
      had avoided that issue. If the Congress had made
      a bid to take part of the Hindu communal vote in
      Gujarat by inducting Vaghela, Digvijay Singh in
      Madhya Pradesh re-made himself and competed with
      Uma Bharati to show that he was as much of a
      Hindu devotee as her and even more devoted to cow
      protection; Bharati was not a good enough Hindu,
      he said, because her cake had eggs in it.
      Samajwadi Party (SP) - led by the man whom the
      Hindutva brigade used to call "Maulana Mulayam" -
      entered into an understanding with the BJP and
      won an unprecendented seven seats in MP where it
      otherwise had little presence. By contrast, the
      BJP's entire electoral drive was so focused on
      consolidating the RSS/VHP power that it need not
      have raised the issue of Hindutva and was indeed
      grateful that its main adversary did not raise it

      Vasundhara Raje has inherited the mantle of her
      mother who was an illustrious patron of the Sangh
      Parivar. Uma Bharati is, in her own generation,
      perhaps the most illustrious figure associated
      with the Babri Masjid demolition. Raman Singh and
      Dilip Singh Judev, who competed for chief
      ministership of Chattisgarh, are RSS veterans.
      Narendra Modi himself was a star speaker and is
      said to have drawn crowds larger than Vajpayee
      himself could; he was the most prominent presence
      on stage at Raje's swearing-in ceremonies. As in
      Gujarat, these electoral campaigns were tightly
      controlled on the ground by the RSS/VHP cadres,
      and many volunteers associated with these outfits
      were brought in from Gujarat and Maharashtra. The
      RSS has long been working in the tribal belts in
      all three states and the BJP finally cashed in on
      that work, winning 77 of the 99 constituencies
      reserved for the scheduled tribes there. In the
      Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, for example, the
      Congress had 10 seats out of 12 but now has none.
      In Rajasthan, the BJP won 26 of the 33 reserved
      for Scheduled Castes while the Congress tally
      came down from 31 to 5. In Madhya Pradesh, the
      Congress share of the adivasi vote fell from 60
      per cent to 40 per cent. Indeed, caste analysis
      of the BJP vote shows a wide spread all the way
      from princely families to the powerful Jat lobby
      in Rajasthan, and from a variety of upper castes
      to OBCs and masses of adivasis across the three
      states, all led by a new generation of hard-core
      Hindutva functionaries ...

      ... A survey conducted by the Centre for the
      Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) before the
      elections showed that a majority of the
      electorate was in fact satisfied with the
      performance of Congress state governments in
      Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh; only in Madhya
      Pradesh had Digvijay Singh made such a mess of
      public facilities - notably roads, power supply
      and electricity rates - that he was likely to be
      thrown out. However, only in Delhi did that
      popular satisfaction with the performance of
      government translate itself into votes. What,
      then, explains the debacle in Rajasthan and
      Chhattisgarh and the size of the defeat in Madhya
      Pradesh? Splintering of the non-BJP vote was
      surely a factor; even in Madhya Pradesh, all the
      seven SP victories were at the expense of the
      Congress. Had there been a united fight against
      the BJP, that united force would have won in
      Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan would have had at
      least a hung assembly. Then there was the money;
      Vasundhara Raje alone is known to have spent 8
      crores. And the BJP is no longer associated with
      any particular segment of the caste spectrum; it
      cut into the Congress vote all the way from
      Brahmins and Thakurs to the Scheduled castes and
      tribes. Above all, the massive shift of the
      adivasis was surely decisive. The Congress had
      more or less monopolised this vote for fifty
      years. By now, the RSS has worked tirelessly
      among them for well over a decade through a
      variety of its front organisations while Congress
      governments, specially in Madhya Pradesh, did
      nothing to either counter that propaganda and
      mobilisation nor for contributing to the security
      and progress of adivasis; indeed,
      government-appointed police and forest officials
      were seen as primary agents of repression while
      RSS fronts often provided the counterweight and
      in the process did their work of saffronising the
      tribal identity.

      In all this electoral calculus, one simply cannot
      ignore the real and widespread hold of the
      Hindutva factor. Uma Bharati is not just another
      BJP leader. She, with her saffron robes and
      shaven head, embodies and personifies hard-core
      Hindutva without, at this late stage of her
      public career, having to make vitriolic speeches.
      Narendra Modi, the star vote-getter, is not just
      another Chief Minister from a neighbouring state;
      he represents the bloodlust of the Sangh parivar.
      Truckloads of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal cadres were
      brought in from Gujarat and Maharashtra not just
      because they have experience in running electoral
      campaigns. They carried with them a certain kind
      of macho, aggressive, murderous personality which
      the new, saffronised political culture accepts
      and admires; they are the carriers and exporters
      of the Gujarat model. Not for nothing did the RSS
      keep the campaign planning tightly under its
      control, and not for nothing did Sudarshan
      himself hold tutorial sessions for the BJP MLAs
      immediately after the elections.

      * * *

      ... The above narrative of recent events recalls
      some of the salient points I have been making in
      some of my previous writings for almost a decade.
      First, I have argued that never in history has
      the far right come to power on its own; it
      initially comes to power, rather, when the left
      gets isolated and the liberal centre collapses,
      parts of submitting itself to the dominance of
      the far right and other parts rendering
      themselves ineffectual through internecine
      quarrels and a politics of opportunism and
      incoherent tactics without any overall strategy
      of frontal confrontation. Second, it is the
      failure of the liberal order to offer radical
      solutions for mass misery which paves the way for
      the far right to make inroads among the
      immiserated - the wretched of this earth - with
      millenarian promises and to organize them into a
      fighting force under its own cultural and
      political hegemony; the experience of misery does
      not necessarily lead anyone to a politics of the
      left, it may equally well lead one to a politics
      of the radical right; all that depends on the
      organizational skills, resourcefulness and
      perseverance of those who do the organizing. No
      serious student of fascism would be surprised to
      see that, in the absence of a left challenge, it
      is the fascist right that has gained so massively
      among the adivasis; even a saffronised Hindu
      identity which comes with promises of power is
      very consoling for the powerless whose tribal
      identity is so widely despised and exploited.
      Third, the inherent advantage of the RSS is that
      it has built itself into a tightly-knit cadre
      organization and a fraternity of overlapping
      fronts run by its seasoned cadres, and that it
      represents a specific and comprehensive
      world-view - call it `culture' if you will -
      which gives to its members and affiliates a sense
      of political belonging, social coherence, even a
      sense of their place in the cosmos; something
      that the haphazard politicking of the
      contemporary liberal order in India, with a sense
      of neither direction nor mission, cannot match.

      Fourth, this world-view, strongly "culturalist"
      as it is, is also a comprehensive program of the
      Right: break-neck privatisation and
      liberalisation, far-reaching integration of
      domestic capital with foreign corporate capital
      in a relationship of subordination, relaxing of
      the taxation and revenue regimes for the
      propertied classes, comprehensive attack on the
      working class including an attack on hard-won
      rights such as the right of government employees
      to strike, re-alignment of foreign and defence
      policies with far right forces on the global
      scale, such as Israel and the United States, and
      so on. This combination of saffronisation and
      neoliberalism is thus a comprehensive attempt to
      dismantle the very principles and visions upon
      which the Republic was initially founded: a
      full-scale counterrevolution of sorts.

      These are the more analytic propositions I should
      like to re-visit now in the shape of some
      reflections on the general contours of Hindutva
      politics over the past decade or so.

      * * *

      ... This has been a longish excursus on the
      successes of the Sangh Parivar, so as to take
      stock of what we are up against. However, this
      decade has also witnessed resistance to that
      power across the nation. The experience of the
      United Front Government demonstrates that a
      successful anti-fascist electoral alliance is in
      fact possible, and the experiment came to grief
      not because of the power of the Parivar but
      because of dissensions within the coalition,
      notably the Congress miscalculation as to its own
      chances of making substantial advances after
      pulling the rug from under the NF government.
      Similarly, the success of the no-confidence vote
      not only in 1996 but even in 1999 showed that the
      BJP-led government can be defeated on the floor
      of the House. The disarray among the forces
      released by `Mandal' accounts for their
      cumulative inability to stand up to `Mandir' and
      it is indeed shocking that the Sangh Parivar has
      made such inroads among the OBCs, dalits and even
      adivasis in diverse regions of the country. The
      vast majority of these forces nevertheless are
      outside its fold and sphere of influence.
      Politics of the oppressed castes is still the
      great unpredictable element in the future of
      Indian politics, and any consolidation of them
      against the brahminising project of the RSS still
      holds great potential for defeating this project;
      the BJP's stunning success among the adivasis in
      the recent assembly elections, outside Delhi, is
      very new and can be reversed through careful,
      concentrated and innovative work among them. Nor
      has the BJP been able to gain a parliamentary
      majority for itself at the federal level, despite
      a decade of communal fires and historic decline
      of the Congress; it still rules at the Centre by
      virtue of its coalition partners. Most of the
      allies in NDA are fickle and they back the BJP
      because it looks like a winning side; if a
      powerful anti-BJP combination emerges, the NDA
      itself may begin to break up.

      Outside (and alongside) the Left parties, the
      most courageous and dogged resistance has in fact
      come from small and large activists' groups,
      cultural organisations, grassroots anti-communal
      mobilisations, writers, artists, academics, and
      notable sections of the media including some
      influential sections of the electronic and print
      media. The cumulative spread and prominence of
      this resistance is possibly no less than that of
      the Hindutva brigade; what this resistance lacks,
      rather, is matching material resource, agencies
      of coordination, a "collective intellectual, a
      coherence, a strategy for accumulation of force.
      These are among our resources of hope.

      The real problem still is where it has been since
      the 1970s and has only been getting worse and
      worse as years and decades go by: the
      programmatic decay, internecine conflicts and
      disarray, and general directionlessness of what
      used to be the reform-minded liberal centre of
      Indian politics, with some sense of principle and
      social responsibility. The Congress itself was
      for long the main formation of this kind and a
      party that could have been described those days,
      borrowing from European terminology, a party of
      the Centre-Left. By now, the ideological drift
      within the Congress is so acute that it is no
      longer coherent enough to be called a party even
      of the Centre-Right. It has become so cynically
      pragmatic that it is quite capable of practising
      a very pragmatic kind of communalism time and
      again, as it did in the Gujarat elections clearly
      and in Madhya Pradesh indirectly; it shall do
      anything for electoral gain, and then gets
      bewildered when it finds out that this kind of
      impulsive shift from one tactic to another
      doesn't work. In the previous national elections
      it poured scorn on the idea of coalitions and
      alignments, going loftily alone, and came home
      with the worst electoral performance in its

      Now, after the spectacular defeats in Assembly
      elections and with national elections looming, it
      has suddenly reversed itself and seeks coalition
      and alignment with anybody and everybody who can
      help it garner the votes. At the heart of all
      these twists and turns is a programmatic vacuum,
      and its leader, Sonia Gandhi, often gives the
      impression of a lady thrashing around rudderless,
      in that vacuum. On the issue of communalism, it
      cannot mount a consistent, militant struggle
      against the RSS because it reserves the right to
      use its own `soft Hindutva' line wherever that
      line seems serviceable in its own pursuit of
      electoral opportunism. On the other major issues,
      notably the havoc the BJP's neo-liberal policies
      has caused for the masses of Indian workers and
      peasants, its own policies are indistinguishable
      from those of the ruling party. By now, the same
      could be said of virtually every other party as
      well, with the exception of the Left; Arun
      Shourie (BJP minister at the Centre), Chandrababu
      Naidu (TDP Chief Minister in Andhra and an ally
      of the BJP) and Digvijay Singh (the ousted
      Congress Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh) are
      all cut from the same cloth.

      In the meanwhile, all the potential as well as
      actual allies of both the BJP and the Congress
      are essentially regional satraps. Be it Mulayam
      or Jayalalitha, Naidu or Mamata: the fief in
      one's own state is what matters, national
      politics is manipulated for state-based gain,
      and, in virtually each state, the non-Congress
      regional satrap tends to be pitched against the
      Congress itself. Constituency-level analysis of
      the recent polls shows that the multiple
      divisions of the anti-BJP vote determined the
      size of its victory in Madhya Pradesh as well as
      the very fact of its victory in Chattisgarh and
      possibly in Rajasthan as well. Pooling together
      of this vote is essential.

      The heart of the electoral problem as we move
      toward the 2004 elections seems to be this. No
      single party, including the Congress, can give a
      credible fight to the RSS/NDA combine. The
      possibility of a third front, of the sort that
      put together the United Front (UF) government in
      1996, has entirely receded from the horizon for
      the foreseeable future. All parties going it
      alone before the elections and seeking alliances
      afterwards will only lead to further splitting of
      the anti-BJP vote and an overall defeat will then
      have been snatched out of the jaws of a possible
      victory. No combination of parties can put
      together a winning combination without the
      Congress while the Congress, in its present
      state, cannot do it without radically reforming

      In this situation, the Congress needs to do five
      things. (1) It must programmatically renounce the
      use of the `soft hindutva' card and mount a
      militant anti-Hindutva struggle on the level of
      each state as well as the national level, so that
      it can be seen as having adopted this as a
      strategic imperative; states like Karnataka are
      crying for this shift of posture. (2) It needs to
      enter into a programmatic revision of its outlook
      on economic policies, with respect to the
      execution of the whole range of neoliberal
      policies of the past and such policy projections
      into the future, with concrete proposal for
      undoing the harm that has been done and for
      protecting the working masses of this country
      from policies that are driven by imperialism and
      big capital; it must, in other words, re-build
      itself as a Centre-Left party and invite others
      to join it on the basis of such a programme. (3)
      It must stop pretending that it is the leading
      party of the country and that the regional
      antagonists (for example), Mulayam Singh in U.P.)
      are nobodies; it must offer them credible
      concessions for these regional alliances and must
      learn to live with less than what it considers
      its due in the particular case, in order to gain
      across the nation. (4) It must learn to live with
      the fact that certain anti-BJP parties will not
      join the coalition directly and it must hammer
      out with such parties bases for cooperation and
      alignment on the state level. And (5) The
      Congress must not project Sonia Gandhi as the
      future Prime Minister of India. She may continue
      to be the party President but it must (a) not
      project anyone or project someone of national
      stature as the future leaders of its own group of
      MPs in the future Parliament and (b) leave the
      question of actual Prime Ministership to
      deliberations after the poll results are in. The
      position of the Congress on these issues has to
      be open, consistent and vigorous. Chances for
      building a winning anti-BJP combination can thus
      vastly improve.

      I am drafting these lines on the first day of
      January 2004. Rumblings toward building such a
      combination are now very much in the air, and
      this month shall in any case be decisive if unity
      of this kind is to be obtained. The future is, as
      usual, open.

      Abridged extract from:

      Will Secular India Survive?, edited by Mushirul
      Hasan, published by imprintOne, Rs. 800,
      distributed by Manohar Books, Delhi.

      Aijaz Ahmad is a Professional Fellow at the Nehru
      Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, and
      Professor of Political Science at York
      University, Ontario, Canada.


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